Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries in seniors. According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in the U.S., one in four seniors over the age of 65 falls every year, usually enduring some kind of injury. As a result, more than 2.8 million injuries are treated in the hospitals and emergency departments every year as well.
The injuries often include bruising, scarring, as well as fractures, and life-threatening injuries, unfortunately. The reason such injuries occur is that our dear seniors don’t have as strong of a body as they used to have. Their bones and muscles are significantly weakened, so they cannot support the body properly during a fall.
This can be pretty frustrating, for both the elderly and their family. Frequent falling and injuries can even lead to the elderly feeling isolated, depressed, and refusing to get out of bed.
In the following paragraphs we’ll explore the causes of elderly falling out of bed in their sleep, what are the risks of such falls and how can this be fixed. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Elderly Falling Out Bed: Everything You Need To Know
Causes and Risks Of Seniors Falling (Out of Bed In Their Sleep)
Many factors contribute to the increased risk of the elderly falling out of bed in their sleep. Generally, the factors are either environmental or behavioral, which often occur as a result of some kind of change. Here are some possible and common reasons elderly fall out of bed during sleep;
- A new sleeping environment – for example, if a senior suddenly starts sleeping in a darker room, with no easily accessible lighting, they are more likely to fall out of bed. Moreover, if they cannot simply reach for their glasses, that could also be the reason to fall out of bed.
- A new bed – a change of the bed could be considered one of the leading causes seniors fall out of bed during sleep. For example, if the new bed is smaller, they could lose the sense of the space in which they can freely move.
Or, if the bed is lower or higher than the previous one, it could also play with their perception of space. Upon exiting the bed seniors can also fall, especially if they were used to an old bed for decades, and now have to ‘learn’ to use the new one.
- New bedding – sometimes, when we change sheets for our seniors, we don’t think how that will affect their sleep. For example, we may think that slippery, silky sheets are super comfortable and may improve their sleep. However, such sheets may contribute to them falling out of the bed, especially if they’re restless sleepers.
Unfortunately, the majority of seniors suffer from some kind of medical issues that might contribute to them falling out of bed. Here are some conditions to have in min din regards to seniors falling out of the bed during sleep;
- Dementia – forgetting where you are, where your glasses are, how your bed is placed, and similar things can be pretty disorienting for the elderly with dementia or Alzheimer’s. People with cognitive impairment also forget what their physical limitations are, which often leads to rolling out of the bed or falling due to lack of proper navigation and unawareness of their surroundings.
- Incontinence or urinary urgency – incontinence or urinary urgency is a common problem in older people, especially women. Waking up and realizing you have to go to the bathroom can cause the seniors to rush out of the bed while still being pretty sleepy and disoriented. The reckless bed exit can lead to a fall, unfortunately.
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo – this means that the senior is dealing with symptoms like dizziness, spinning (vertigo), and inability for proper orientation due to debris accumulation in the inner part of the ear.
- Restless sleep – it is common for seniors to experience sleeping issues as well as restless sleep. The tossing and turning, paired with a new bed or bedding, can quickly lead to them rolling out of the bed in their sleep.
- Musculoskeletal/neuromuscular disorders – such disorders contribute to weakened mobility in seniors, which leads to numbness, stiffness, and weakness when attempting to change sleeping positions or get out of bed. As a result, seniors experience rolling out of the bed or falling upon getting out of the bed.
- REM behavior disorder – this disorder may cause a person to act out their dreams physically. The person may kick, punch, and unfortunately, fall out of the bed in their sleep. This disorder is most common in elderly men over the age of 60. The disorder can also cause sleepwalking or even eating while sleeping, which also brings a certain danger to the whole situation.
- Other mobility issues – if a senior is recovering from surgery, experienced a medical condition like a stroke or a heart attack, they will most probably have issues with mobility and overall body strength. As a result, they may, unfortunately, experience falls more often.
How to Prevent Seniors Falling Out of The Bed?
It is always important to take care of your loved ones, especially the elderly who are weak and prone to major injuries if not properly taken care of. Here are some tips you can utilize to ensure your senior doesn’t fall out of bed (during sleep or any other circumstance);
- Bed rails – by installing bed rails you can ensure the senior is contained within the bed as they sleep. Make sure to opt for sturdy bed rails that can also serve the senior to get out of the bed or adjust their position. If the bed is placed next to a wall, you may need only one rail to ensure the other side of the bed is safe as well.
- Additional pillows – by adding a few pillows you can ensure the senior is contained within the bed during sleep. Try to go for larger, body-size pillows; there are less likely to move around or fall off the bed during the night. They’re also more useful for restless sleepers and the elderly who toss and turn frequently. Opet for fluffy but thicker pillows to ensure they stay on the bed.
- Foam pool noodle – by tucking a foam pool noodle under the bedding (sheets or the mattress pad) on both sides, you can ensure the senior stays within the space of the bed and won’t fall over. The pool noodle is soft enough not to affect the senior’s sleep quality, but also firm enough the prevent the senior from rolling over it and out of the bed.
- An equipped nightstand – make sure that your elderly’s nightstand is equipped with the following items; a bed lamp, a high-quality bed alarm, a place where they can always put their glasses and hearing aid, a phone in case of an emergency. However, in case your senior tends to roll out of the bed frequently, a nightstand might be dangerous to place right next to the bed. So, make sure to find a position close to the bed that won’t cause additional harm.
- A hospital bed – at one point, you might have to buy a proper hospital bed made specifically for seniors. If a senior has medical issues and serious mobility limitations, this bed can be life-saving. Such a bed allows height and position adjustments, as well as the angle of the bed for different types of activities, including sleep. These beds also feature bed rails, which is a great advantage.
Other Things To Consider
Elderly falling out the bed can be a traumatic experience for them and their families. Because such a fall can lead to many injuries, it is essential to take proper precaution steps and take care of our seniors.
So, make sure the senior always has access to proper lighting in their room and next to the bed. We recommend you opt for bed lamps with simple switches or lamps that have a dimmer light, appropriate for sleeping.
It is also important to keep a phone next to the bed in case the elderly want to adjust their position or experience some other issues. Make sure the phone is simple, made for elderly use, with big buttons and possibly on-screen images of familiar faces/family members.
In case of incontinence issues and urinary urgency, it is essential to use a portable commode chair to prevent frequent, urgent, and often reckless nighttime bed exits and trips to the bathroom.
And finally, make sure to invest in a proper hospital bed, bed rails, and additional, body-size pillows to keep your senior within the bed frames. Opt for adjustable beds and rails in case the seniors find them too claustrophobic and restrictive. You don’t want to cause them additional anxiety and restlessness.
When falling out of bed during sleep, the seniors can experience serious, life-threatening injuries. This can cause them even more mobility issues or even shorten the amount of time they have to age in one place without dealing with relocation and other, related issues.
No elderly want to be a burden, but because o their age, health, and weakness, they have to rely on all the help they can get. So, make sure to provide everything your senior may need so they can enjoy their old age and peacefully as possible.